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Charles GOUNOD (1818 – 1893)
Je veux vivre: Roméo et Juliette (1867) [3:43]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Promptes à servir: La Périchole (1868) [2:26]
O mon cher amant, je te jure: La Périchole (1868) [2:15]
Georges BIZET (1838–1875)
Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante: Carmen (1874) [6:04]
Près des remparts de Séville: Carmen (1874) [2:44]
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Les filles de Cadix (1874) [3:06]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
Connais-tu le pays: Mignon (1866) [4:38]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Whither, Whither have you vanished? Lensky’s aria: Eugene Onegin (1879) [5:25]
Only he who knows longing, Op. 6/6 [2:42]
Joseph CANTELOUBE (1879–1957)
Chants d'Auvergne [2:49]
Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
À Chloris (1913) [2:26]
Gabriel FAURÉ  (1845-1924)
Pavane, Op. 50 (1887) [5:36]
Francis LOPEZ (1916-95)
L'amour est un bouquet de violettes: Violettes Imperiales [2:27]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Figaro’s aria: Il barbiere di Siviglia* (1816) [6:14]
Sol Gabetta (cello)
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra/Charles Olivieri-Monroe
Mihaeha Ursuleasa (piano)*
rec. 7-10 May 2008, Domovina, Prague, Czech Republic.
29 May 2008, Radiostudio1, Zurich, Switzerland.* DDD
RCA RED SEAL 88697 359622 [53:24]
Experience Classicsonline

Cellist Sol Gabetta’s Cantabile collection is based on singable music with wonderful tunes from opera arias and songs mainly by popular composers. I was delighted by his 2005 Munich release that featured Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme and Saint-Saëns’ Concerto No. 1 in A minor with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester under Ari Rasilainen on RCA (c/w Tchaikovsky Andante cantabile, Pezzo Capriccioso, Nocturne, Ginastera Pampeana No. 2).
All but one of the tracks on Cantabile are arrangements for cello and orchestra prepared by Manfred Grafe. Billed as a bonus the final track is given in the arrangement for cello and piano by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. The art of the arranger is long established. Before performances could be heard on record or broadcast the majority of music-lovers had access to orchestral and operatic scores only in pared down transcriptions. Their realm was the drawing room or salon. Prominent examples of the art include Franz Liszt for the piano, Heinrich Ernst for the violin and Alfredo Piatti for the cello. Liszt was the undisputed master making hundreds of transcriptions of songs, operas and symphonies. Liszt mainly championed the music of those contemporaries that were in vogue or he felt deserved attention. Transcribers, like Liszt with his Verdi and Schubert transcriptions, generally stayed as faithful as possible to the original. Some composers would often use a freer interpretive style with their chosen material. Verdi acknowledged the value of transcriptions as a way of disseminating his scores to a wider audience; serving to popularise his operatic melodies still further and advance his reputation.
Gabetta’s performances of these mainly sentimental and sugary transcriptions are for the sweet-toothed listener and are none the worse for that. I note that Classic FM have already placed this disc on their playlist. The scores are mainly transcriptions of late-Romantic operas. Long and memorable melodic lines are a consistent feature.
The first track on the disc is Je veux vivre. This gloriously interpreted waltz is probably the most famous aria in Gounod’s grand opera Roméo et Juliette. Of the two transcriptions taken from Jacques Offenbach’s opéra bouffe La Périchole I especially enjoyed Sol Gabetta’s foot-tapping interpretation of O mon cher amant, je te jure.
Georges Bizet’s opéra comique Carmen is a perennially popular staple of the repertoire. Gabetta’s Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante is something of a tear-jerker and Près des remparts de Séville comes across as confidently swaggering and steamily provocative. The aria on which it is based is where Carmen propositions Don José.
Léo Delibes’s song Les filles de Cadix was originally a bolero for voice and piano. Splendidly communicated the soloist confidently brings out the flamenco-infused rhythms. Connais-tu le pays, the air from Ambroise Thomas’s opéra comique Mignon has a particularly enchantingly melody. It represents Mignon’s precious childhood recollections of her home from where she was abducted. In this piece I noted the especially fine woodwind playing.
A master of melody, Tchaikovsky is represented by two scores. From the lyric opera Eugene Onegin nothing can match Gabetta’s enthralling playing. He vividly characterises the desperate passion of Lensky’s immaculately written aria Whither, Whither have you vanished? Inspired by the Auvergne region of France, Joseph Canteloube’s Chants d'Auvergne is a substantial set of folk songs for soprano voice and orchestra. The title of the particular song from the collection is not given in the annotation but this is certainly a warm and leisurely transcription.
A homage to J.S. Bach, Reynaldo Hahn’s song À Chloris, is taken from the second volume of his collection of Mélodies. Gabetta’s interpretation of the Hahn song is evocative of a bucolic idyll of shepherdesses and nymphs. Next comes a gloriously serene rendition of the Pavane, Gabriel Fauré’s stately and hauntingly beautiful score. At 0:45 I noticed what sounded like an untidy edit. Surely this couldn’t be a flaw in Sol Gabetta’s playing … could it?
Referred to as a ‘bonus’ track the final score on the disc is Figaro’s aria Largo al factotum from Rossini’s opera buffa Il barbiere di Siviglia. It differs from the other scores on this release in that it is not one of Manfred Grafe’s transcriptions for cello and orchestra but a transcription prepared by Castelnuovo-Tedesco for cello and piano, and recorded at a different location. Gabetta plays with confidence and vivacity in this imaginative Rossini arrangement complete with its exhilarating conclusion.
The release is let down by the ineffectual booklet notes that tell the reader virtually nothing about the music although it does mention arrangements of works that are not included. Composition dates are not provided; a task that took me only around ten minutes to find most of them. Can some one tell me why the final track Figaro’s aria, presented as a ‘bonus’ track, is a bonus? As the disc only lasts an ungenerous 53 minutes anyway, surely the label was not going to give even less playing time.
Private funding has given Gabetta the opportunity to play a Giovanni Battista Guadagnini cello from 1759. Although we are not told which cello is used on this release I was struck by the luxuriant and deep tone of the marvellous instrument. Sol Gabetta is one of those rare instrumentalists who can consistently communicate personality. Her sparkling and intelligent playing of these sweet and highly attractive cello transcriptions makes this an appealing acquisition that will provide enjoyment.
Michael Cookson


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